Therefore, this is a post about my epic birthday adventure learning the art of falconry, while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland to run my first marathon. I originally got hooked on the idea after Jim's neighbors did it for their little girl's birthday party. I tried to do it last year for my birthday, but couldn't find a place in Houston that would take first timers. Then, I saw an episode of Trip Flip in which they did falconry in Edinburgh...at a castle. When I registered for the marathon, I immediately started researching falconry and found Dalhousie Castle (like them on Facebook).
On a side note, it wasn't until I stepped on the Dalhousie Castle grounds when I realized it was the same place used in Trip Flip. I confirmed it right before writing this blog post. Also, when I get ideas to do something off of Trip Flip, I must research their travel guides section, which shows exactly where they went. DOH!
But it wasn't just the birthday party or Trip Flip that got me into wanting to have a skill of calling birds or animals to me. This stems from much earlier desires. As a girl, I pretended to be Sheena Queen of the Jungle by putting my hand to forehead calling the zebra (my cat) to me. When I saw Ladyhawk years later, I was mesmerized by the falcon swooping to Navarre. And then came probably one of the best Bud Light commercials shown below. Seriously, training my falcon to get my beer...priceless.
And now on to the adventure.
I easily sold Ray, JL, and Jim on the idea (too easy), but unfortunately, Helen couldn't meet us there in time. We chose the Ultimate Experience, which included 2 hours with four birds of prey for 80 pounds each. Originally, I wanted to combine archery and falconry, but we all decided it was best to focus on the birds. I'm so glad we did.
We arrived a little late (we called to let them know) and met our wonderful falconer, Kylie. She showed us around and explained all of the birds of prey. Each of them had names and stories and made me want them even more. For instance, there was Jake the raven who was in movies and is probably the smartest of all the birds. He learned the alarm code key of his cage and got himself out twice, which is why he was at Dalhousie Castle.
|That's right...I'm about to get my falconry on!|
We were all given gloves and headed out to the open area for our first falconry experience with the Peregrine Falcon. I was the birthday girl and was allowed to go first. I was so giddy with anticipation as she put the dead chicks on my bad ass glove and called him over. And then he swooped at me and landed on my arm. I'm not going to sugarcoat, I was scared; I didn't know what to expect. What if he missed? What if my head was more appetizing than the baby chick? But you know what, he was awesome, majestic to watch.
The others all got to go after me and we did probably 2-3 rounds for each. My smile was insanely huge.
Then, she brought out the smallest, cutest, bestest, owl ever named Puck. I swear to God, I wanted him. He was so light on my glove and I contemplated on how I would get him in my carry on to take him home with me. He was so darn cute and it took everything I had not to just pet him and squeeze him and love him. However, I was warned that he may look so cute and friendly, but he's actually pretty fierce. It's only after knowing you for a couple of days when he let's his guard down for you to pet him. Jim says that I'm just like him in that I am fierce, rearroowwwwingggggg, don't touch me and then he rubs my head and I purrrr like a kitten.
|This was such a great picture!|
|I love how they both are turning their heads away from each other.|
|The best selfie with Puck.|
Next up, was the big owl, Shiloh. Whoa nelly. After having Puck land on me, I was not expecting this girl to be so heavy. It was like an anvil landing on my arm, but she was beautiful. Her eyes were just beautiful. She was ready to get outside of her cage and go, but she was an older bird (not to be confused with a British term for a human female). She also didn't take orders to well and many times, she went on the ground to hang out looking at kylie calling her back to the stand. Then, she would look at us for support. It was incredibly funny. She also liked to go for your glove even after she ate all the baby chick. When we went through all of the food, we got to hold the owl and pet her. She was so nice.
And last but not least, was the Harris' Hawk. Wow, is all I can really say. He was amazing. He was cool. He was smart. He was fantastic to watch. My favorite part of the day was setting up obstacles for him to fly around and then he would land perfectly on your glove like it was no big deal. Sometimes, we would have two people stand in front of the person holding out the glove with the food. He would swoop in between the two people hitting them with his feathers and calmly land on the glove. We tried to get video or pictures, but he was too fast.
Afterwards, we went back over to the area with all the birds and brought more out to play. We saw another owl that looked like the tree rings in a cut tree. He did NOT want to get out and play. He preferred his cage over anything, but eventually, he warmed to us. We hung out with an eagle and rubbed our heads against another owl. It was so cute.
|These are future falconers right here.|
|We learned that birds love Jim, because he's so tall. They have their own tree to perch on for viewing when they are on his arm. This eagle didn't do that for everyone.|
And because there were too many pictures to choose from when writing this post, I decided to make another slideshow. I hope you enjoy it!